And when one arrives at a donation clinic there’s an awkward utility to everything. The suspiciously clean couch (that I presume no one has ever sat on), the small television, the hazmat symbols on the plastic bags. Welcome to wank club. The first rule of wank club is please ensure your sample is securely sealed in this plastic container. The second is, for God’s sake, wash your hands.
The innate grossness is the reason I don’t usually disclose in polite conversation that I donate. For one, there’s a chance my mother will read this. And despite being a 31 year old gay man, I retain some discomfort at the idea that she’s aware I masturbate (sorry Mum).
Listen to Toby discuss what he did and didn’t have to disclose to become a sperm donor on This Glorious Mess:
Secondly, sperm donors usually prefer to retain the cloak of anonymity. Indeed it’s long been a hallmark of donation that donors could remain unknown to even their birth children. Recent legislative changes have ensured that at age 18 all children can now access their donor’s records but there’s also been a flurry of interest in the form of documentaries and news stories. Many of these have revealed the complex questions donors and the children conceived through donation are left with when the process isn’t conducted in an atmosphere of openness.
But the straw that brought this camel out of the woodwork, was a quite remarkable story about an English sperm donor, Simon Watson. Watson has been donating sperm for 16 years for $100 a pop. He’s “fathered over 800 children” with women “giving birth to his offspring at least once a week.” Simon advertises his “magic potion” on Facebook and online and is so committed to donation that he preferenced continuing to donate over staying with his first wife.
There’s a lot to unpack there, some of it funny and gross, some of it serious. “Magic potion” is perhaps the creepiest nickname one could use in this context, beaten by a whisker perhaps by “joy juice”. I’m unclear who exactly types “sperm donation” into the search bar on Facebook and expects good outcomes, but apparently hundreds of families.
My reasons for donating are quite personal. As a gay man who’d one day like children my motivations are partially karmic. I’ll ultimately need assistance of some kind, so why not help my fellow humans out now? The idea of gay families also continue to be contested within Australia and overseas and our value and abilities as parents denied by reactionaries. Given most of these arguments are motivated by pure bullshit, the only way to undermine them is to prove them wrong in practice. But above all, I’ve seen the joy that kids bring friends of mine. So part of me feels mildly nauseous reading about good old Simon, who seems to be out to make a buck and to recreate the human race in his own image.
Those numbers, even if they’re spread across the United Kingdom are a problem. In Victoria, donations can be used to create a maximum of 10 families (up to two kids per family) while in NSW it’s 5. Those numbers are capped to avoid creating the risk of donor conceived children hooking up incestuously, and also because it can create psychological issues for donor conceived kids to learn that they have, say, 800 brothers and sisters.